Posts Tagged ‘dump truck’

Bring Your Camera

April 18, 2012

“Come with me to deliver this load of mulch,” Bruce said last night after supper.

I never know what our trips will bring. He doesn’t usually ask me along; so I know when he does invite me, there’s something he wants me to see.

“Bring your camera,” he added as I walked toward the front door.

The dump truck is an International road tractor. You need a ladder to climb up into the thing, but once there, you survey the world on your side from a high vantage point.  Bruce started the engine and pulled out of the driveway.  We bumped along Rt. 250 toward the foot of Afton Mountain. At Rockfish Gap Country Store, we took a left onto Old Turnpike Road. It’s a gravel road I’ve never traveled. On our right was an old factory with abandoned cinderblock buildings, peeling tin roofed structures, loading docks with bay doors rusted shut, old equipment smothered under weeds and vines, and off in the distance stood a tall, brick smoke stack.

Bruce stopped the truck next to the Realtor’s For Sale sign. “I wonder what this used to be,” he said.

“I don’t know, but it sure is a mess,” I answered.

He’s been looking for a little piece of land to move his mulch business to. He needs a place where a tractor trailer can get off the main road easily, turn around, and dump the load.

“I’d love to have it if the price was right,” he said.

“Oooh no,” I said. “There’s too much to clean up here and you don’t know what that factory made. It may be one of those situations where the EPA has to get involved, asbestos clean up, lead based paint, underground oil and gas tanks. Can you imagine what a mess that would be? How much money you’d have pour into it? And that would be after you bought the property.  You can just put this idea right out of your head,”  I stated with crossed arms.  My tone must have sounded firm enough, because he pulled back out onto the road mumbling something about “just a thought.”

The road was narrow and the truck is big and wide. I was glad not to have met any cars coming. They would have had to back up, or pull over if they’d met us.  The Blue Ridge mountains rose to our right. We were so close to the foot of the range that we could see individual trees where the slope graduated upward. Spring hay in the pastureland between us and the mountain waved under the breeze. A fence stretched along the roadside with rails arranged like clasped gray fingers. The sun had dipped below the mountain and the warm spring air had begun to cool.

I lifted my camera when I saw three deer standing in the field adjacent to the truck, but the side mirror obstructed my shot and I put the camera back in my lap.  “If you wanted me to take pictures,” I said, “we should have come back later in the car.”

“Keep your britches on,” Bruce said. “You haven’t seen anything yet.”

We traveled for another two or three miles before making a sharp left and climbing a steep driveway. The road surface was littered with large loose gravel and good sized pieces of crystal quartz. I could hear them hit the bank as the truck rolled over them and they shot out from under the tires. The driveway was rutted from rain and we bounced from side to side in the truck seat. I hoped this realignment of my brain was worth it.

At the crest of the hill, spread out before us, was the acreage of our destination, a flat, terrace of spring green dotted with hot pink and white azalea bushes under weeping willow trees. The view of the mountains was crisp and clean. My intake of breath was audible. Bruce looked over at me and smiled. He pulled up beside an old weathered gray barn with a rusted tin roof. It leaned back against a tree, tired from years of holding farm equipment and bales of hay.

The farm house was circa 1920, a non-descript two story brown dwelling with square white pillars holding up the porch roof. I was not impressed with it.  What caught my eye was the small rock house to its right. It was quaint and old, probably dating back before the Civil War. The mortar around the rock was rough placed and the craftsman had taken something like a stick and traced a line in the mortar around each stone.  We have many rock walls, pillars and buildings in Albemarle County, but I had never seen one made like this. The roofline had been changed at one time to add height to the cottage, and the structure had a later addition, crafted by a different rock mason. The lines were missing. The two windows facing us were stained glass. The door was a wide paneled mahogany with a white porcelain knob.    “It’s beautiful,” I said.

“Thought you’d like it,” Bruce said as he tipped the dump body and unloaded the mulch.

The owners of the property had been spreading the last load of mulch Bruce had brought and came over to the truck to hand him a check. Bruce is not shy.  “She’d like to see the rock cottage,” Bruce said motioning to me with his thumb.

“Sure, come on in,” the woman said. “I’d love to show it to you.  As much work as I did to the place, I like to brag about it.”

And it was lovely, with its original hardwood floors, exposed beam ceilings, stone fireplace and walnut mantle. She had sanded the wood to its original burnished finish and was in the process of taking the layers of paint off the inside rock surface of one wall. A huge high four poster bed sat in a corner of the front room near the fireplace.  I had my camera in my hand as I walked through the cottage admiring the renovations that brought the original look back to the building. I didn’t take any photographs though.

We thanked the owners for the tour and climbed back into the truck. “I could stand there and feel myself transported back in time,” I said to Bruce.

“Why didn’t you take any pictures?” He asked.

“I felt funny taking pictures of the inside of someone’s house with them standing right there,” I said. “Like maybe they’d think I was casing the joint.”

Bruce laughed. “I think you look pretty trustworthy,” he said. “Besides, they have my name, phone number and address. You wouldn’t get very far before you were caught.”

“Oh well,” I said. “I guess I missed out. I’ll just have to keep the pictures I have in my head.”

We left the way we came. As we turned at the bottom of the hill, I pointed and called out, “Wait! Stop! Look at this.”

“Oh yeah, I saw it the last trip,” Bruce said. “I thought you had seen it.”

“No, I missed it. Pull over,” I said. “It’s so sweet. I want to get out and take some pictures.”

He pulled over in front of another stone cottage and let me slide out. He drove the truck down a ways from the cottage and waited for me.

The building looked to be constructed by the latter mason who had added onto the house we’d just come from up on the hill. This rock was smooth on the surface with neat mortared edges. The small entryway was framed by a pillared arch. Two round-top windows on either side of the front door reflected the yard’s white dogwood trees in their dark surface. A rock chimney rose from a roof shingled in weathered gray cedar shakes. A neat stack of firewood sat near the front door. Its small split logs ready to warm the little house.

To the right side of the cottage, a retaining wall made of the same rock rose behind the building with a set of stairs climbing along its side to access an upper level door that lead to a room that had been dug out of the hillside above.  The door mirrored the same rounded arch as the porch and windows.

Bordering the tiny front yard, a rail fence stood next to an old fashioned climbing red rose, its fragrance perfumed the evening air as no hybrid rose could.

I stood staring at the cottage for a long time after I took my photographs. I imagined its interior inhabited by elves or fairies. I smelled the aroma of meat stew simmering over an open flame in the fireplace. I tasted buttery cornbread cooked in an iron skillet. A grandmother rocked in her chair, reading to a child from a storybook written long ago.

“You alright?” Bruce called from the truck.

I put the camera into my pocket and walked down the hill to the dump truck. “I want that little house,” I said.

When we got back to the old factory, Bruce pulled to the side of the road again and stopped. “You want to take some pictures?” he asked.

I looked at him and frowned. “No,” I said. “I thought we decided against this.”

“We?” he asked.

“I’d rather have that cute little rock house back there,” I said smiling, my arms crossed over my chest again.

Bruce crossed his own arms and smiled back at me. “There’s no ‘For Sale’ sign there,” he said.

On the Way to Millington

September 25, 2010

The only thing worse than going to Millington, is having to drive the 1987 four wheel drive red pickup truck to get there.  I hate that truck and the feeling is mutual.  It teases me.  I turn the key, the engine cranks up, but just let me put it in gear.  It chokes, sputters and dies. I curse. It laughs and we start all over again.  The truck and I usually ignore each other.  It sits in the driveway, its back to me and I tip toe around it.   Today we had to go together to rescue the only person who loves both of us, Bruce.

Millington is on the other side of White Hall, nearer to Free Union, but this side of Pea Vine Hollow.  That’s where the dump truck broke down.  That’s when Bruce called and said, “You need to bring the Four Wheel Drive to Millington.”

“Can’t I just bring the tool box in my car?”

“You can’t pull the dump truck out of the ditch with your car.”

“You didn’t say you were in a ditch. You said you broke down. How’d you get in a ditch?”

“I was going to try to drive it home, see how far I could get.  It’s been overheating. I reached for the cell to call you and the road gave way under the front wheel.  They’re putting in a culvert up here and the dirt is soft. I think the dump truck blew a head gasket. I can’t get it to cool down and hold water.  It steams up and blows the water out.   There are two cars behind me that can’t get out and you’re twenty five miles away.  Can you just get in the truck and come on?”

“I hate that truck.  I hate it.  It won’t run for me.”

“If you drove it more often, you’d get used to it.  Just crank it up, pump the accelerator three times, put it in gear and take off.  It’s easy,” he says.

“It’s easy for you. Where are the keys?” I ask.

“I think they’re in the garage.”

I stomp out to the garage and dig around in the desk until I find the key.  I climb behind the wheel, turn the key, pump the accelerator three times, put the truck in gear, and it cuts off.  I repeat the process, holding my breath, imagining people behind Bruce, blowing horns, cursing him, calling tow trucks or County cops.  The truck starts.  I pump the gas, put it in gear and it sputters, then shuts off.  I pound the steering wheel, then the dash.

“Dammit, you’re going to start, and we’re going to drive to Millington and pull Bruce out of a ditch.  You need to listen to me and follow directions.  I know you hate me, but this is important.  Please start.  I’m not asking for me.  I’m asking for him.”

It takes two more tries and when I  finally get the thing in gear, I peel out of the driveway.  The truck runs on regular, as cheap-as-it-comes gas.  When I’m driving it, I run on part fear and part adrenaline.   There are several ways to get to Millington.  One is mostly straight, but longer.  The other is on a winding road that runs past Beaver Creek Dam.  Bruce is in trouble, so I choose the short cut.  There’s play in the steering of the truck, a lot of play.  I don’t consider the play until I turn onto the winding road leading to White Hall.  Sweat breaks out on my forehead and I roll the window down.  There’s no air conditioning and the heat runs full blast winter and summer.  Hot flashes, an excellent heater, curves in the road, play in the steering, and nervousness don’t mix.  My nausea as well as my hate for the truck grows.

This is a drive that I would usually enjoy.  The scenery is all old barns, blue mountains, split rail fences and wildflowers.  I carry my camera with me all the time.  Generally, I’d pull over to the side of the road several times and take photos.  No time, no place wide enough to pull over, and no creative energy keep me driving.

Out of White Hall, Garth Road is a bit straighter and I’m more familiar with the route.  I’m calming down and know that Millington is just up the road.  I turn left toward Free Union and pass the old farm houses I recognize.  A left onto Wesley Chapel Road leads me closer to Pea Vine Hollow.  Bruce is almost close enough to walk to now.  The paved road changes to gravel and I get to a Y in the road.  Not sure which way to go, I open the cell and call. 

“Bear right at the Y and I’m about three quarters of a mile on the left.  I’m walking down the driveway to meet you.”

I breathe a sigh of relief when I see his blue clad figure walking toward me.  I want to turn off the truck and jump out right then, but pull into the driveway and follow him to the dump truck.  It’s sitting precariously, the front passenger wheel at an odd angle.  It almost looks as if the axle is broken.  “No it’s just way over in the ditch,” Bruce says.

I get out of the truck, my job done, and walk to the shoulder.  “Where are you going?” he asks.  “I can’t pull it out by myself.  Do you want to drive the pick up or the dump truck?”

“Neither,” I say.  “I’ve done my part.”

Bruce shakes his head and chuckles at me.  “Which one do you want to drive?” he asks again.

The dump truck looks too much like it will tip over, so I choose my enemy. I pull myself behind the wheel and  Bruce reaches in and turns the key to start it.  The truck starts right up.  He looks at me and smiles.  

“It starts just fine,” I say.  “It’s when I put it in gear that it acts up.”

Bruce turns, hooks the chain to both trucks, locks the hubs on the four wheel drive, puts it in gear for me and pulls himself into the dump truck.  He has much more confidence in me than I have in myself.

He points for me to pull off, and I put the pickup in drive.  It behaves and I push down on the accelerator.  I feel the chain tighten and the truck groans.  I push on the gas a little more and feel the tires grab.  The truck takes off and the dump truck comes with it.  Bruce motions for me to stop. He unhooks the chain.

“Drive down to the church,” he says. “Pull over and wait for me.”

Wesley Chapel is about two miles down the road.  I pull into the parking lot and Bruce pulls in beside me.  The dump truck is smoking, dripping oil and water. 

“Motor’s gone,” he says, dropping the hood.  “Oil’s all over the engine.”  He flips open his cell phone and calls my Step Father who has a low boy trailer.  He’s not sure where to come, so Bruce offers to meet him at Free Union and lead him to the Chapel.  There’s a big sign in the parking lot warning owners of equipment and vehicles not to park there or towing will result. 

I prepare for such occurrences.  I have my camera, two books to read and a Little Debbie snack cake.  I offer to sit with the dump truck.  Wandering out to the cemetery, I begin to take some photos.  Bruce calls to me before he gets in the pickup.  “Do you have your cell phone in your pocket?”

“I have it,” I call back.

“If it gets dark, get in the truck,” he says.

“I will,” I assure him.

I wander the cemetery for awhile and find an old white gravestone with a lamb sculpted on top.  It’s the grave of a boy, Charles Edward Morris. He was born May 10, 1950, and died May 14, 1962.  Charles was twelve years old.  The sky behind the marker is little boy blue with puffy white clouds, reminding me of a sheep.  I kneel down and point the camera so that stone, sky and clouds are in my view.

As the sun sets, the horizon turns shades of pink, orange, yellow and gold.  I think this is a beautiful place to be buried, with the mountains in the distance and the sun painting a different picture each night before the moon and stars come out.  I sit quietly and watch as the canvas changes, streaks of color brightening, fusing, spreading out again, fading and finally disappearing to shades of gray as the sun disappears.

I hear the truck in the distance and the men return to load the dump truck onto the trailer.  Bruce and I climb into the pickup for the ride home.  He drives. 

“You know, just beyond where we were tonight, there’s a place called Fox Mountain.  I’ve never been there until today,” he says.  “Before the truck broke down, I thought, I’m going to have to bring Train over here so she can take some pictures.  You’d love it.”

“We’ll have to bring the car over this weekend,” I say.

“No, we’d have to bring the truck.  The road’s too rough.  We’d drag the bottom out of the car.”

I roll my eyes and sigh.  “I hate this truck,” I say.

“Sure served its purpose tonight.”

“I guess,” I say.  “doesn’t make it any more fun to drive.  It just doesn’t like me.”

“Maybe the two of you should spend more time together, get to know each other,” Bruce says.  I can tell he’s smiling, laughing at me.

“I’ll go to Fox Mountain with you in the truck this weekend if you drive,” I say.

Bruce chuckles, pats the seat for me to slide over closer to him, and says, “See, I told you the two of you would  get used to each other.” 

I wonder which one of us he’s talking to.